My Brush with Whitney

I'm conflicted. Should I mention this or not? A momentary brush with a superstar? I wasn't a fan. She was good, but my feelings about Whitney Houston have always been somewhere in the middle of fan and anti-fan. She had a good voice, but a good voice isn't everything. I'm not making a negative or a positive comment on her life; I'm simply mentioning this to document two lives crossing...and to bid her farewell. I'm glad she's not suffering any longer.

It was 1991. I was living in LA for about six months and waiting tables at Jerry's Famous Deli. The graveyard shift. I waited on every comedian--both professional and incredibly amateur--in LA. One night Whitney with her entourage of four or five friends showed up at one of my tables.

She ordered fried chicken at a Jewish deli.

"It's not going to be good," I said--as a good waiter should.

"I want fried chicken," she said.

"And fried chicken you'll get," I said. Really really bad chicken, I didn't say.

Twenty minutes later when she got here food, her reaction was "Bullshit. Just like I thought. Bullshit." She laughed hysterically as if even bad fried chicken were something to smile about. She had a beautiful smile.

"Actually," I said, "I was the one who said it would be bullshit." She should have ordered the lox or the matzo ball soup.

She laughed. I laughed. And she ate it, I think. I don't remember her sending it back.

In LA I waited on the likes of Billy Idol (very nice) and Marlon Brando (from top to bottom, total and complete, every bit an asshole), but Whitney was just there to have a good time with her friends. I don't think she ever looked at me--which is perfectly fine. When I worked as a waiter, I wanted to be invisible. 

So--besides telling all my students in Germany that "I Will Always Love You" was actually a country song written and sung for decades by Dolly Parton--my few invisible moments in LA with Whitney are all I have to cherish. I was a twenty-something in the 80s, so I knew every Whitney song by heart. Her downward spiral saddened everyone I knew.

Her life was too short.

I must be off,


  1. Interesting to hear your anecdote (though it makes her sound unlikeable). I liked her. She seemed to have a sense of humour. Sad to see her go.

    1. Well, she didn't come to the restaurat to converse with me. She was laughng when she said the food was bad, and she didn't send it back. Actually she was quite friendly.

    2. Hmmm, comes across differently in your blog, Chris :-) But it`s amazing how these celebs are in real life. Brushed with a few myself. The very big ones are often a-holes, and the small ones are nice, or vice-versa. Guess they have good and bad days too. Thanks for posting Dolly Patrton`s version - it`s beautiful - hadn`t seen it before. Much more feeling in it. Though I must admit I`d turn down Burt Reynolds too - ugh!

    3. Hi, Jany! I didn't mean to imply that she was mean or impolite to me. Her reaction was more humorous than anything else. I'll revise the post. Yes, the Dolly Parton scene from Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is good. Dolly has a beautiful voice (of course she's from Tennessee like me). I've never understood the appeal of Burt Reynolds either.

    4. You sing like Dolly Parton too??? WOW!

    5. Cute story, funny how when you read something it sometimes comes across differently than you meant. I didn't read it as negative or that she was being mean. It sounds like she was just there with her friends and wanted fried chicken. But really, who the hell orders fried chicken in a Jewish deli? :)

  2. I worked as a waitress in Nashville decades ago. It's funny how you remember the stars, (Ray Stevens, Minnie Pearl) who were particularly kind, and then there are those others (whom I will not mention) who were complete dicks. People don't have to salivate all over themselves with praise because this sad, lovely creature has died. Her closest friends clearly didn't care enough to get her clean, although having brushed up against addiction personally, I know it is the work of Sisyphus. Interesting take, Christopher. Enjoyed.

  3. I remember my three kids standing on one chair when they were very little, necks craned to get their ears as close to the speaker as possible, listening to 'Didn't We Almost Have It All' at full volume. Boy, Whitney had a voice.


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